Touchscreens may soon wrap around the front and sides of phones and tablets

BARCELONA—The edges around the touchscreen on the front of your phone or tablet are just wasted space. So says Atmel, a San Jose, Calif., company that is at Mobile World Congress showing off a new flexible touchscreen technology that can take up the entire front side of a phone or tablet and even wrap around the sides of the device.

Here at the Mobile Focus event Sunday evening, representatives of the company demonstrated a working tablet with such a screen.

Atmel is already working with Asus to put its touchscreen tech in a new tablet that is scheduled to come out in the next few months. But the tablet will not use the flexible screen to extend the touchable area to the whole front and sides of the device. That might be included in a future Asus product.

Still, Atmel’s technology in interesting because it points toward what might be the future of mobile device screens.

You can imagine app makers completely rethinking their apps because of a new-found ability to scroll content across whole front and side edges of a phone or tablet. The app maker might decide to place a row of buttons on the side edge of the device, because there’ll be working touchscreen there as well as on the front.

If it really works, and Atmel assures me it does, the technology could totally change the way mobile devices are made. We’ll see if any actual products appear by Mobile World Congress 2014.

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